Historically Inspired Embroidery Designs

Historically inspired machine embroidery design for an 18th c. pocket.

Historical costumers are as diverse as the eras they love to recreate.  Some thrill at the fun of dressing up, others at skillfully bringing a piece of history back to life. In most cases, we fall somewhere along that spectrum, often traveling in one direction or the other as our skills, time, and life in general lead us in new directions.

When you’re bitten by the historical accuracy bug, it opens up a whole new world of research, skills, and frustration. There is so much to learn, but one of the first things I learned was how difficult it can be to source and recreate items that were once commonplace. For instance, you see stunning period embroidery on garments in museums and in portraits, but few of us have the time or skill to recreate such details in our own projects. I may be willing to save up for beautiful fabrics and spend hours on intricate trims, careful tailoring, and other touches, but when it comes to embroidery, I’m all thumbs.

Machine embroidery offers intriguing possibilities for speeding up the process, but the reality is often disappointing. Many designs are too modern or look obviously machine made. How often have you been lured in by a pretty design, only to discover they lacked essential pieces needed to recreate actual garments? That gorgeous border may be based on an 18th c. waistcoat, but you need more than a border to recreate one – you need corners, collars, curves, buttons, and so much more.

1826 HandkerchiefI soon realized that if I was struggling to find appropriate designs, others were too. I launched the Romantic Recollections line of historically inspired embroidery designs to help fill that gap and bring period embroidery within reach of more historic costumers. That was a great first step, but the cost of embroidery machines is a significant hurdle for many, so in 2015 I expanded my range to include hand embroidery patterns. These historically inspired designs range across time periods and include pieces suitable for both men and women.

You can use my designs with confidence, knowing that they are period correct for the era you are recreating. Each design is carefully researched and is based on extant garments or period publications and paintings. I strive to remain faithful to the original design, sometimes choosing to leave in small imperfections that help a piece feel balanced and natural. In others, I must thoughtfully correct errors in the original piece to make sure the final product lines up precisely as intended.

My machine embroidery designs mimic period hand embroidery techniques, including longer, softer stitches than you often see in machine embroidery.  I take the extra time to digitize both halves of a design rather than mirroring it perfectly, because those slight differences help create the illusion of embroidery by hand rather than machine. They are optimized to work with specialty threads like wool blends and silk, to help further an authentic period look.

18th c. ButtonEvery design includes a detailed PDF containing historical notes, images of the inspiration piece, tips for transferring your hand embroidery pattern or for matching your machine embroidery design, the design itself, and an extensive resources section. Some designs, like our 18th c. pocket, also contain an e-pattern for sewing the pocket, and our camisole design contains a full tutorial on using it with the Wearing History 1910s camisole pattern or other patterns. I want you to have all the resources you need to easily recreate these garments at home.

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   Wow!!!! I am SO IMPRESSED!!! [The PDF] is beautifully written, thorough but not intimidating. Very clear, understandable instructions, tons of advice and support, like having a smart instructor right next to you.   

~ Mary

November 11, 2015

Want to try it for yourself?  Download this 18th c. button design when you subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll get a link to the file once your subscription has been confirmed, as well as ongoing updates about new products, sales, and giveaways.


Please visit the Romantic Recollections Shop to view the historically inspired designs currently available. New pieces are continually being added, so check back often.

If you would like to commission a custom order using either a Romantic Recollections stock pattern or a design of your own choosing, please use the Contact Us button to the right to discuss how we can make your vision a reality.